Katherine Woolworths supermarket opening hours have been cut during the COVID epidemic

Katherine’s only large supermarket is struggling to keep its doors open, and half of its staff are isolated as the COVID crisis continues in the city.

The Woolworths store is one of more than a dozen exposure locations in a city of about 10,000 residents where more COVID cases were confirmed in the Katherine and Robinson River cluster today.

The opening hours of the store have been shortened from 7 am to 10 pm from 9 am to 5 pm.

In a statement, a Woolworths spokesman said reports of the cluster and exposure sites have affected a large portion of its staff.

“As a result, we don’t have enough team members available to handle normal trading hours and the full range of stores,” the spokesman said.

“We understand this is frustrating and we regret its impact on our customers.

“The well-being of our customers, our team and our community is our top priority, and we will take all necessary steps to support safety in our stores in accordance with public health guidelines.”

A spokesman said online orders in the store had been “suspended.”

An employee at Katherine Woolworths said the service was booked at least until Saturday.

Anyone who visited Katherine Woolworths on November 13 from 3pm to 4pm and 5:35 pm to 6pm is considered an occasional contact and must go for testing immediately.

The same direction applies to anyone who visited the supermarket on November 12 from 5 pm to 6 pm, on November 3 from 4:55 pm to 5:30 pm and on November 1 from 6.30 pm to 6.50 pm.

A complete list of all current NT public exposure sites can be found on the NT Board’s coronavirus website.

The main street of the rural town, with four-wheel drive and palm trees in the foreground.
More than a dozen exposure sites have been listed in Katherine.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

There are now 19 cases in the Katherine and Robinson River community cluster.

At a news conference on Wednesday, NT Prime Minister Michael Gunner said authorities have so far identified 234 close contacts, 31 of which were on the Robinson River.

The authorities have not yet reached 127 close contacts.

At a news conference today, NT Prime Minister Michael Gunner said the contact tracing company had “hit the fast sand” around the main exposure site and health workers could not identify the dozens of people who signed up for a popular pub on the city’s main street.

“We know of about 66 close contacts at Kirby’s Pub, but contact trackers have not been able to effectively capture all logins due to lack of information or unreadable information,” he told reporters.

“Kirby’s paper copy register is largely unreadable. This leaves us behind eight balls.

“Don’t leave out information like your contact number. We ask you to do this so we can tell you that you need to go for the test as soon as possible, otherwise it may be too late.”

Entrepreneurs prepare for the effects

Katherine’s concern is compounded by the recent extension of the lock from three to seven days.

Trent de With, who runs the fishing tackle, said companies and their staff would need financial help to overcome the latest restriction, but they have not yet heard from the government if there are any plans to do so.

“We have Christmas coming, so we’re getting ready for a large inventory, and I have to pay those bills in a week or two, and I don’t have the income to pay those bills,” he said.

“Financial tax, stress in my mind [and] mental health… it really requires a lot.

“Without a week’s income, it’s a scary time for their staff and owners.”

Prior to the recent closure, many Katherine business owners said they were already worried about financial stability due to the NT government’s COVID vaccine mandate.

Last week, they told ABC that they expected staff shortages to affect services in remote locations and that some bosses were considering hiring staff from abroad for unvaccinated workers.

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